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Scrum from the Trenches - Product Backlog Refinement is a Scrum Team Responsibility by Jasper Alblas

· scrum

ℹ️ Product Backlog Refinement

During the Sprint: "The Product Backlog is refined as needed".

"Through discussion with the Product Owner, the Developers select items from the Product Backlog to include in the current Sprint.

The Scrum Team may refine these items during this process, which increases understanding and confidence."

☝️ Definition

Quote: Product Backlog refinement is the act of breaking down and further defining Product Backlog items into smaller more precise items.

Product Backlog refinement is not a time-boxed Scrum event.

⚗️ The "Refinement Meeting"

Often, Scrum Teams come together once per Sprint, or once per week to have their "refinement meeting".

Some dysfunctions:

  • Product Owner leads the meeting, taking ownership of refinement.
  • Discussions lack depth and fail to enhance understanding.
  • Limited participation, mainly from a few senior Developers.
  • Decisions made lack documentation for future reference.

👩‍💼 The Product Owner

Start with the "Why" of the product before anything else.

As a Product Owner, you have authority and responsibility over the Product Backlog.


  1. Develop a product vision and roadmap.
  2. Craft a storyboard and create personas for the product.
  3. Identify assumptions for validation using Developer-built MVPs.
  4. Define acceptance and satisfaction criteria.
  5. Conduct user story workshops with customers and stakeholders.
  6. Engage with customers and stakeholders to understand product use.
  7. Perform market research and establish achievable goals.

👩‍💻👨‍💻 The Developers

If there is too much information the solution is likewise: have a conversation with the person who recorded the information.

The key here is that the Product Owner is not the only person responsible for refining the Product Backlog.


  1. Innovate solutions to achieve the Sprint Goal within the Sprint.
  2. Estimate and plan work for each Sprint.
  3. Collaborate with Developers and potentially other teams on architectural guidelines.
  4. Conduct experiments/MVPs to validate assumptions.
  5. Document potential solutions for Sprint implementation.
  6. Establish customer behavior measurements for the product.
  7. Break down large PBIs into smaller functional units of work.

🤹‍ The Scrum Master

The biggest challenge for the Scrum Master in Product Backlog refinement is to make sure everyone understands the challenges of refinement.


  1. Lead Product Backlog refinement and estimation workshops.
  2. Emphasize shared responsibility in Product Backlog refinement.
  3. Instruct on essential metrics for transparency, such as lead time, cycle time, and time to market.
  4. Provide guidance to Product Owner and Developers on self-organizing patterns.
  5. Assist Developers in effectively slicing PBIs for a successful Sprint delivery.


The Product Owner: building the right thing;

The Developers: building the thing right;

The Scrum Master: ensuring feedback and empiricism throughout these activities.


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